Wednesday, April 14, 2021

From Ian:

Jpost Editorial: Independence Day: In 73 years, Israel has accomplished so much - editorial
As Israel celebrates its 73rd birthday on Thursday, it is worth remembering that there are those who have said from the very beginning that it cannot survive.

Pinstripe diplomats in the US State Department said as much in 1948, trying to convince US president Harry Truman not to recognize the nascent state. Arab leaders said it that same year in mobilizing armies to fight the Jewish state. European politicians said it before the Six-Day War as Israel’s Arab neighbors were tightening the noose and threatening to destroy the country.

Over the years pundits and politicians, columnists and authors have all spilled millions of words discussing how Israel cannot survive: how it will be overwhelmed by the enemies around it, torn apart by the divisions inside it, or swept away by pure demographics. For instance, in 2008 the Canadian newsweekly Maclean’s front cover story was entitled: “Why Israel can’t survive.”

Yet here we are, 73 years later, still standing, still kicking, still surviving. And more than that, flourishing in a way that those of little faith in the country, its people or their abilities ever imagined. Not without problems, not without dilemmas, not without blemishes, not without painfully fractured political moments, but still surviving and flourishing.

Those predicting Israel’s imminent demise have always overlooked one important feature: the people dwelling in Zion desire life, and they desire life here in an independent land in this little corner of the world. And that desire for life has compelled them to adapt and improvise over the last seven decades to confront changing demographic, political, military realities and take those steps needed to ensure survival.
Ruthie Blum: A Tribute to the Bereaved Parents of Unsung Fallen Israelis
It’s virtually impossible to remain dry-eyed at these mini-biographies of so many incredible Israelis who died in the line of admirable duty.

But there’s another group of bereaved parents far from the limelight, unable to engage in the kind of collective mourning that characterizes Memorial Day. These are the mothers and fathers of kids who committed suicide during their service in the Israel Defense Forces—after suffering from periods of depression, unrequited love, unfulfilled perfectionism and probably a less-than-stellar adolescence.

Though suicide, like illness and accidents, is counted in the annual tally of casualties among soldiers, police and civilians, it is not championed as “heroic” or highlighted on Yom Hazikaron. Nor are the parents of suicide victims as likely as their more “normative” counterparts to revel in or dwell on the circumstances surrounding their children’s demise.

Sadly, however, these mothers and fathers—who warrant just as much empathy as those given constant accolades for their kids’ accomplishments—are largely ignored. It’s actually odd, considering that suicide remains what the IDF admitted in January is the leading cause of death among its troops.

According to IDF Manpower Directorate commander Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, of the 28 soldiers who died last year, nine took their own lives. Eight of these were men, and five served in combat units.

Almoz claimed that because of prevention programs, the IDF has a lower suicide rate than the country as a whole and less than many other of the world’s militaries. He boasted that four soldiers were saved in 2020 thanks to cell-phone data used to locate them before they managed to self-harm. In addition, he said, IDF commanders are better-equipped these days to recognize suicide warning signs.

If so, they and the rest of the public, which stands in silence at the sound of the siren denoting the start of Yom Hazikaron, should give thought and pay tribute to the families of the unsung fallen Israelis gunned down at their own hands.

May their memories be a blessing.

Memorial Day sorrow fades into joy as Israel ushers in 73rd Independence Day
Israel made the abrupt annual transition from mourning to jubilation on Wednesday night, as Memorial Day drew to a close and its 73rd Independence Day began.

Somber speeches, ceremonies in cemeteries and news reports on fallen soldiers and terror victims gave way to celebration as the annual state ceremony began at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

Local authorities around the country held Independence Day events in person, after events last year were mostly canceled or went online due to the nationwide virus lockdown. Now, the plummeting infection rate has allowed for most restrictions to be lifted, though some limits on gatherings remain in place.

All participants will be required to carry a “Green Pass” — evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 or of recovery from the coronavirus.

The Mount Herzl ceremony is led by the Knesset speaker, a position currently held by Yariv Levin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. During his speech, Levin called for unity amid Israel’s stifling, years-long political impasse. Last month’s inconclusive elections were Israel’s fourth in two years.

“We went through four difficult election cycles. This long period of instability, of uncertainty, harms us all. This is the time to mend the rifts. Even when our opinions are at odds with each other we are still two sides of the same coin, one nation. This Independence Day is the right moment,” Levin said.

He also gave a statement in Arabic, saying, “This holiday is for all Israelis.”

Gil Troy: Jews must revive pride in the label 'Zionist' - opinion
Twenty years ago, as Yasser Arafat turned many of his people from negotiations back toward terror, I wrote an 800-word essay in the Montreal Gazette “I am a Zionist” that changed my life. It was my Herzl moment: I went from being a proud but quiet Jew and full-time American historian, to a proud but loud Jew balancing my American history career with my Zionist activism. Here is the essay, updated:

Tragically, today, too many Jews avoid the “Z-word,” because so many Jew-haters demonize and delegitimize Jews, Israel and Zionism. Zionists must not allow their enemies to define the movement. We are not just anti-antisemites or anti-anti-Zionists. Jews should reaffirm their faith in Zionism; the world should appreciate this gutsy, visionary movement that rescued a shattered people by reuniting a scattered people.

Zionism is the Jewish national liberation movement, reviving a once-broken community with bold actions guided by three assumptions – that Jews:
• Are a people not just a community of faith – the Jewish people, Am Yisrael;
• Have ties to a particular homeland – the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael;
• Have the right to establish a state on that homeland – the State of Israel, Medinat Yisrael.

If antisemitism is one of the world’s oldest social diseases, anti-Zionism proves that Jew-hatred is a particularly adaptable and potent virus. This year alone Israel has been falsely accused of training American police officers to brutalize blacks, of withholding vaccines from Palestinians, and of exploiting the coronavirus – illustrated by the hashtag “#Covid1948” based on Israel’s birth year. For decades now, Zionism has served as the modern bogeyman, seducing extremists Left and Right. Despite centuries of Western Jew-hatred, Zionism stands accused of every major Western crime, be it racism, imperialism, colonialism, or now, white privilege – negating the many Jews of color, among many other falsehoods.

No nationalism is pure, no movement is perfect, no state ideal. But today Zionism remains legitimate, inspiring and relevant, to me and most Jews. Zionism offers an identity anchor in a world of dizzying choices – and a road map toward national renewal and personal meaning. A century ago, Zionism revived pride in the label “Jew”; today, Jews – and their allies – must revive pride in the label “Zionist.”
Muslim Nurse Who Recited ‘Shema’ Prayer for Dying Jewish Patient to Bear Torch for Israeli Independence Day Ceremony
Israel invited a Muslim nurse who recited a Hebrew prayer for a dying Jewish patient to be a torchbearer during a Wednesday night ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, marking the end of Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and the beginning of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day celebrations.

Maher Ibrahim is among the 14 men and women chosen to light the torches at the ceremony. A resident of Daburiyya, an Arab village in northern Israel, Ibrahim is a nurse at the Emek Medical Center in Afula and head nurse of the hospital’s COVID-19 unit. He treated Hasidic patient Shlomo Galster for coronavirus for more than a month at the hospital. When the medical staff realized Galster’s family would not make it to the hospital in time to say the “Shema Yisrael” prayer before he died, Ibrahim said the Hebrew passage on his behalf.

Ibrahim told The Times of Israel he feels “honored and proud” to be a torchbearer and “for everyone who has been with us throughout the past year” fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The torchbearers also received a Knesset Medal, presented by Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin, at a ceremony held at the Knesset on Monday. Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion said at the reception that the torchbearers serve “as a tangible expression of the fraternity, camaraderie and partnership that are the hallmark of Israeli society.”

Minister of Culture and Sport Yehiel Tropper told the 14 individuals, “Israeli fraternity is what has sustained us all more than anything over the past year, even in the most difficult days, and perhaps then most of all … Everyone who is here today has given up something in order to give to others. Thank you all for making our society a better one.”

Levin also congratulated and thanked them for their work.
The False Comparison of Zionism and Colonialism
A 2019 article in the McGill Daily defines Zionism as "a modern political movement advocating for the colonial establishment of a Jewish state." It is demeaning to accuse Zionists of establishing "control over an indigenous people" because Jews themselves are indigenous to the Land of Israel. The Jewish people's ancestral homeland has always been Israel, and ample historical evidence exists to prove such claims.

There was no Jewish "conquest" of Palestine. Jews have resided in the land for thousands of years, and when many began returning in the 19th century at a time when many Arabs also arrived, the Jews legally purchased property from landlords. Following the overwhelming Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan in November 1947, the Arabs started their nationalist war against the Jews, with five surrounding Arab armies invading the nascent state.

Zionism is strikingly different from colonization in another crucial respect: The motivation of Zionism was (and is) to develop the land and create a thriving society for all of its people, not to control the area and exploit its resources on behalf of a foreign power.
Anti Defamation League or Auxiliary Democratic Lobby?
It was reported on Monday by the JTA that the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, called on Fox News Corps to fire Tucker Carlson.

Greenblatt complained in his original call and in his subsequent response to Lachlan Murdoch’s refusal to cooperate, that Carlson had used a ‘’...white supremacist trope” and was pushing an ‘’anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” in his framing of the current administration’s immigration policy.

I found these charges to be odd at best insofar as I have never heard Carlson say anything remotely racist or anti-Semitic over the years I have listened to him. But in this case, prior to hearing about Greenblatt’s accusations, I had not heard this particular segment and thus went to find the putatively racist and anti-Semitic rant.

In the segment in question, Carlson makes the case that the Democratic super-majority currently controlling the government is seeking to increase illegal immigration insofar as it sees this as a pathway to a permanent power sweep in DC. History has shown that the people streaming across America’s southern border eventually vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

Given that the Dems, for all their faults, know how to read - it makes perfect Machiavellian sense to do what they are doing even if it wreaks havoc on America’s democracy, economy, and social fabric in the process. Carlson brings actual recordings and quotes of Dems saying that this is exactly what they are doing - importing new Hispanic voters to shift the electorate irreversibly in their favor.

So in this case - even if I think that what they are doing is horrific and will cause permanent damage to the US on many levels - at least I can understand both why they are doing it - as well as why they are lying about it. What I cannot understand is Jonathan Greenblatt.

Pinsker Centre PodCast: Ep. 9 - Discussing Israel in the Era of Cancel Culture - With Asaf Romirowsk?y?
Asaf Romirowsky is the Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). He is the co-author of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (Palgrave, 2013) and a contributor to The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel (WSUP, 2015).

Today, he talks with Peter, a Pinsker Centre Policy Fellow and student at Durham University, about the hurdles faced in discussing Israel in academia and on college/university campuses.
Richard Gere: Israelis won't have a home until the Palestinians have one
American actor Richard Gere called for compassion, forgiveness and love to heal the pain of Israelis and Palestinians so they can move forward into an era of peace.

“We know that more hatred and more anger will never lead us out of this,” Gere said in a video appearance at the annual Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony to mark Remembrance Day.

The event, co-hosted by the left-wing NGOs Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle-Families Forum, featured bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones either in war or in incidents stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gere called on participants to create a world where children can grow up without fear.

“Until the Palestinians have a home, the Israelis won’t have a home,” Gere said.
Feeling Persecuted Among Jews, Anti-Zionist Jews Wish For Some State Where They Might Find Refuge (Satire)
A group of Jews whose ideology denies the centrality, necessity, and morality of Jewish sovereignty, and thus pits them against the vast majority of their coreligionists, has begun to sense that the animosity they face from other Jews over the issue has victimized them and rendered them dissidents, making them unsure they can rely on the forbearance of that majority to guarantee the minority’s safety and raising the question whether it might be time to consider establishing a country of their own where they can take control of their own security.

Anti-Zionists, a sliver of a Jewish population that already represents only a fraction of a percent of the world’s population, have in recent months noticed a sharpening increase in animosity from other Jews, more than ninety percent of whom identify as Zionists and see anti-Zionists as merely another variety of antisemite. The loosely-affiliated anti-Zionists fear that they cannot entrust their continued existence to the whims of the majority of their ethnic minority, and, seeking ways to ensure their future without depending on that unreliable majority, have hit upon the notion of creating a sovereign state where they can develop, sustain, and defend themselves not through the fickle mercies of the rest of Jewry.

“It might be time to consider taking matters into our own hands,” allowed Richard Silverstein, a Seattle-area blogger. “For too long, we’ve simply assumed, or been unwilling to contemplate alternatives, that the best we can do is try to be model citizens of this nation, contribute s best we can, and maybe expect the majority to accord us rights, or at least not molest us. But it’s been more than a century has passed since the inception of anti-Zionism as a movement, more than a century in which we’ve proven to the vast majority of other Jews exactly what we contribute to them, and for some reason that’s only increased resentment. There’s still outright hate that I admit flows in both directions.”
Financial Times peddles myth that Edward Said opposed violence
A review in the Financial Times, by anti-Zionist ‘historian’ Avi Shlaim, of a book about the late post-colonial theorist and celebrated academic Edward Said, was fawning in its characterisation of his ‘intellectual contributions’ to the Israel-Palestine debate.

The piece (“Places of Mind by Timothy Brennan — Edward Said, humanist champion”, April 13) included claims clearly contradicted by the evidence, including the assertion that Said, who opposed the Oslo Accords and supported a one-state solution, upheld “the three central values of Judaism — truth, justice and peace“.

First, leaving aside the baffling contention that Said promoted “Jewish values”, it’s odd that Shlaim would suggest Said upheld the notion of “truth” when, in the article, he also writes that “the impact of [Said’s highly influential book] Orientalism was profound: it became the founding text of postcolonial studies“.

Postcolonial Theory in fact rejects objective truth or historical knowledge in favour of the idea that “what we think of commonly refer to as ‘truth’ is “constructed from systems of power and privilege that determine what can be known”. In other words, the ‘narratives’ of the historically oppressed groups – a category which, interestingly, doesn’t seem to include Jews – takes precedence over serious historical inquiry.

Central to Mr. Said’s post-colonialist argument in Orientalism, the New York Times wrote in their obituary for him in 2003, “was the notion that there was in essence no objective, neutral [Western] scholarship on…the Arab world”. And, presaging our own era of identity politics, intersectionality and Critical Race Theory, Said wrote “Since the time of Homer, every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”

But, even more deceptive is Shlaim’s claim that Said upheld the value of “peace”. Edward Alexander, the Jewish scholar and author who passed away last year, penned an article in 1989 – during the First Intifada – titled ‘Professor of Terror’ which dispels the notion that Said promoted non-violence.
Past BBC framing leads to present omission and inaccuracy
On April 9th editors of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page chose to frame Israel’s response to the International Criminal Court as a “snub”.

The report itself carries the more temperate headline “Israel ‘will not co-operate’ with ICC war crimes investigation”. Interestingly, only in the seventeenth paragraph (of twenty-one) are BBC audiences informed that “Israel is not a member of the ICC”.

Readers are told that:
“Last month, [ICC Chief Prosecutor] Ms Bensouda announced that the court would proceed and investigate possible crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 13 June 2014.

The date – elected by the Palestinians – marks an Israeli operation against Palestinian militants and an intensification of violence which led to a 50-day war in July and August.”

In the past we have repeatedly noted the BBC’s failure to clarify to its audiences the significance of the start date of the ICC investigation:

Those who bothered to read down to the eighteenth paragraph of this latest report found the following:
“Israel also points out that the start date for probing alleged crimes excludes the kidnap and murder by Palestinian Hamas militants of three Israeli teenagers the previous day, which triggered the Israeli operation.”

In fact – as we have also repeatedly noted in the past – Operation Protective Edge was brought about by hundreds of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th 2014 – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. However – since 2014 the BBC has persisted in erasing that missile fire from the record, with the result that seven years on, it is incapable of providing audiences with a clear and accurate account of events.

Israel at 73: How the tech sector saved the economy from the worst of COVID
As Israel celebrates its 73rd birthday the nation seems to be winning the battle against the deadly coronavirus pandemic, emerging from a series of lockdowns with a battered economy and massive unemployment, but still in a better situation that it could have been in without its booming tech sector.

Israel’s gross domestic product contracted by 2.5% in 2020 due to the pandemic, with enforced social distancing shuttering businesses and economic activities. Unemployment shot up to its highest level in at least 50 years, to an average of 15.7% for the year, compared to a record low of 3.8% in 2019. Private consumption dropped by 9.5%, and GDP per capita by 11%. The government deficit ballooned to 11.6% from 3.7% in 2019, and the debt-to-GDP ratio surged to 72.6% from 60% in 2019.

Even though the recession was the worst-ever crisis witnessed by the economy, Israel still fared better that other developed nations: the economy in the European Union declined by 6.6% last year; by 3.5% in the US; and by 5.5% on average in OECD countries.

One of the key reasons for this is that the nation’s tech economy has continued to thrive, even as workers moved their offices to their homes, setting up workstations in their kitchens and living rooms and plugging away at their laptops with their children and pets scampering around.

Exports, not including diamonds, continued to grow in 2020 and were up 1.9% even as global trade declined, mainly due to the fast growth of sales of technology services. Demand for digital and data security products surged as the world moved activities online due to the pandemic.

“Exports played a key role in curbing the hit of the crisis on the economy,” the Bank of Israel said in its annual 2020 report. Advanced services exports, or in other words tech exports, “witnessed high global demand, which stayed strong, especially in fields in which Israel specializes.”
Israeli maker of ecofriendly concrete among 12 winners of BloombergNEF award
ECOncrete, an Israeli environmental infrastructure startup that has developed high quality, cost effective sustainable concrete for building ecologically friendly coastal and marine infrastructure projects, has been named by BloombergNEF as one of 12 2021 BNEF Pioneers.

The title is conferred on “early-stage companies that are pursuing exciting and important low-carbon opportunities,” the program organizers said in a statement. The program was set up more than a decade ago to highlight “important, pioneering” ecofriendly innovations.

“The winners were selected as their innovations fill important gaps in optimizing long-haul freight, making sustainable materials, tracking greenhouse gases, valuing carbon sinks and reducing energy and chemical use,” the statement said.

Instead of building concrete blocks, which are bad for marine ecology, damaging the fish, oyster and coral ecosystems, ECOncrete uses a technique known as bio-mimicry – concrete products that embed the shapes and textures of natural systems.

ECOncrete products are designed with tiny holes so fish and other marine flora and fauna can live and grow around and within the structures. The material is eco-friendly, stronger than concrete and blends in with its surroundings, and is thus less intrusive to marine ecosystems. In 2019 the firm was selected as one of nine Israeli technologies mentioned in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions ranking.
IAI teams up with Thales to supply UK’s Royal Navy with advanced missiles
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the nation’s largest aerospace and defense firm, and the UK arm of Thales Group, a French defense multinational, have joined forces to equip frigates of the Royal Navy with the Sea Serpent, an advanced anti-ship and anti-surface missile.

The Sea Serpent delivers agile, highly penetrative combined anti-ship and land attack capabilities, at ranges significantly in excess of 200 kilometers (124 miles), IAI said in a statement. It deploys an innovative radio frequency seeker head and a data analysis and weapon control system to provide precise target detection, discrimination and classification. It overcomes both kinetic counter-fire and electronic countermeasures, so that the missile can locate and attack its target in a variety of environments.

The missile is designed to overcome congested and confusing situations, in which large numbers of decoys are present, reality is disrupted and there is heavy electronic interference, the statement said.

IAI develops and manufactures advanced systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security. Since 1953, the company has provided technology solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide, including satellites, missiles, weapon systems and munitions, unmanned and robotic systems, and radar.
Earliest evidence of kosher diet in UK found in 800-year-old Oxford animal bones
Archaeologists in the United Kingdom discovered findings from a medieval Jewish community of Oxford that they said were the earliest evidence of a religious diet.

The findings, locked inside pottery fragments excavated in Oxford, go back to the 12th and 13th centuries following William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews in Northern France to settle in England.

The fragments came from two former homes in Oxford’s center that belonged to Jews: Jacob f. mag. Moses and Elekin f. Bassina, according to a report on the findings last week, in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, by the researchers from the University of Bristol.

“A remarkable animal bone assemblage was unearthed in this latrine, dominated by domestic fowl (mainly goose), and with a complete absence of pig bones, hinting at a kosher diet,” the researchers wrote.

Fish bones included only species such as herring, which is kosher, they added.
NASA Names Two Asteroids After Israeli Student Who Discovered Them
NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is naming two recently discovered asteroids after an Israeli student who found them during an asteroid-hunting project, it was announced on Friday.

Aseel Nama, a biomedical engineering student at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, grew up in the Arab town of Deir al-Asad in the Galilee and is now based in Haifa. She participated last month in the International Astronomical Search Collaboration, a project co-sponsored by NASA that invites the public to search for asteroids using data provided to them.

“I really wanted to take part in this campaign, which is a kind of competition, but NASA insisted that I recruit a team of three people,” she said in a statement. “I explained that I wasn’t able to recruit anyone else, but that this is my dream. Finally, I convinced them to let me compete. It turns out I was the only one-person team and the only Israeli among 116 teams worldwide.”

Her studies involve mastering segmentation—the division of images into sections—a skill that she credits for the asteroid discoveries.

“I got a set of photos and videos from NASA to search for new asteroids,” said Nama. “I called my ‘team’ ANI (Aseel Nama Israel) and the asteroids I discovered will be called ANI1801 and ANI2001.”


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